Although the San Francisco 49ers coaching staff has been impressed by Jarryd Hayne's ability to return punts, the team isn't ready to expand the rookie's role to kickoff duty just yet.
"It's two different skill sets," special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey Jr. said on Wednesday. "Not to say that Jarryd can't do it, but that's not his strong suit. His strong suit is punt return and that's where we're going to continue to let him flourish."
Fellow rookie DeAndrew White has handled kickoff returns the last two weeks with Bruce Ellington sidelined due to an ankle injury. White has averaged 23.7 yards per return in six chances, although he fumbled once on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.
"Obviously, you've got to take care of the football," McGaughey said. "And there was a cut in there that we wish he would have made. We've got to continue to keep working him, keep coaching him and continue to show him those different cuts and kind of show him where he needs to fit and all those different deals.
"That's a maturation process of a young guy. They're going to go through those things."
McGaughey isn't sure if Ellington will return to the field this Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, but if he is ready, expect to see the second-year wideout in action on special teams.
"Hopefully he's available. If he's there, we will play him," McGaughey said. "If not, we're going to keep doing what we've been doing."
As for Hayne, although McGaughey said he is still getting a feel for moving in tight spaces, the coach acknowledged that the Australian is the team's best "punt catcher." That was on full display on Sunday when Hayne caught a punt on the run and returned it 37 yards to the Cardinals 19-yard line.
"He fields the ball naturally," McGaughey said. "You saw the one that he caught over his shoulder in the preseason game. The first ball that he put on the ground was the one that he did in the (Minnesota Vikings) game. Since he's been here, I hadn't seen him drop one in practice or in a game or since then."
Smith Looks to Get Offense in Sync
Like many others on the team, Torrey Smith offered words of encouragement for Colin Kaepernick after the quarterback threw four interceptions in Arizona.
"You could see in his face after the game that he wasn't happy with it," Smith said. "But he's one of the biggest competitors you'll be around. It's frustrating for him. It was a tough loss and he thought it was his fault, but it's on us to keep his head up, have his back and keep giving him the confidence that he's our guy because he is."
So how can the offense get back on track in Week 4? Smith said that it comes down to finding small successes and building off of them. The team did that, albeit a little too late, in its Week 2 loss in Pittsburgh when Smith caught a 75-yard touchdown pass.
"We have to do things to get Kap in rhythm," Smith said. "When he's in a rhythm, he's tough to handle. We haven't been doing that the past couple of games, especially not when it matters the most. We have to be consistent, and that's on all of us."
One person Smith believes can help the offense find its stride is Reggie Bush. The veteran running back has been inactive the last two weeks with a calf injury, but he returned to practice on Wednesday.
"Reggie's a playmaker," Smith said. "You put him out there and he can run routes like a receiver. He can turn a simple run into a huge one for us. We're looking forward to having him back. I think it's definitely going to take some pressure off of Kap."
Defense Wary of Rodgers' Trickery
As has been and will continue to be discussed throughout this week, the 49ers have defeated the Packers four consecutive times – all since 2012.
Eric Reid has been a part of three of those victories and addressed that topic on Wednesday.
"We're familiar with the team, so hopefully we can use that experience to our advantage," Reid said. "But they've been playing great this year, so we definitely have to be on our P's and Q's.
"We've got to play better and improve. That's what we're going to work for this week and try to put our best foot forward on Sunday."
The Packers offense begins and ends with Aaron Rodgers, who owns a league-leading 135.4 passer rating through Week 3. The quarterback has also thrown 10 touchdowns, including five on Monday night against the Kansas City Chiefs.
One of those primetime scores came on a free play, when Rodgers drew a d-lineman offside and threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to James Jones. The signal-caller did the same thing later in the game, this time completing a 52-yard pass to Jones.
"I know the thing he loves to do is get somebody to jump offside and throw it deep," Reid said. "If we see the flag come out, we have to know that he's going to throw it up. He's a great player and he's going to make plays, but we have to match that."
What else does the 49ers defense have to accomplish to keep the reigning NFL MVP in check?
"We have to do a better job of breaking on the throw and getting pressure on the quarterback so he isn't so comfortable," Reid said. "Aaron Rodgers is obviously dangerous if he's comfortable in the pocket, so that's something we need to do this week."